Dinguss’s account of the Sept. 3 fatal shooting, first reported by the Oregonian, contradicts details offered by federal authorities, who said Reinoehl, 48, pulled a gun as members of a fugitive task force tried to arrest him. Two other witnesses also told the Olympian they had seen Reinoehl fire a weapon at police.
If Reinoehl did pull a gun -- or was seen reaching for a weapon -- police wouldn’t have needed to warn him before opening fire.
Dinguss, whose attorney described him as an ordained minister, said he fears reprisals from far-right groups and police for describing what he saw unfolding outside his apartment.
“We are very concerned for our client’s safety for speaking out, both from the fascist right, and retaliation by law enforcement,” said Luke Laughlin, his attorney, in a statement.
Reinoehl’s case unfolded against a national backdrop of escalating violence as protesters and far-left groups clashed with armed members of self-described militias and far-right organizations in Wisconsin, Oregon and elsewhere.
Prosecutors last week charged Reinoehl with fatally shooting Aaron J. Danielson, 39, on Aug. 29 after supporters of President Trump clashed with counterprotesters in downtown Portland. In an interview with Vice News last week, Reinoehl suggested the shooting was self-defense and said he believed Danielson, a member of the far-right Patriot Prayer group, was threatening him and a friend.
As national politicians, including Trump, demanded Reinoehl be swiftly arrested, officers in the Pacific Northwest Violent Offender Task Force tracked him to Lacey, about 120 miles north of Portland.
There are few official details about what happened next. At least four members of the task force, which included officers from a variety of local agencies, fired dozens of times at Reinoehl; the U.S. Marshals Service later said he had a handgun, but it wasn’t clear whether he had ever fired it at police. On Thursday, the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office, which is leading the investigation, said that Reinoehl was in possession of a semi-automatic handgun, but that investigators were still trying to determine if he had fired it or pulled it out.
Dinguss said he never saw Reinoehl pull out a gun.
He said he watched as two unmarked police vehicles converged on Reinoehl as he walked to his car, holding his phone and chewing on a piece of candy. The officers never audibly identified themselves and didn’t try to arrest Reinoehl, Dinguss said.
Instead, he said they immediately began firing. When Reinoehl heard the gunfire, he ducked behind his car, which was pinned in by the law enforcement vehicles; he never tried to get inside, Dinguss said, and he never saw him reaching for a weapon. Dinguss said he watched police unleash rapid-fire rounds at Reinoehl, once pausing to shout “Stop!” before resuming their fire.
Dinguss added officers waited “multiple minutes” before rendering medical aid to Reinoehl, who died at the scene from several gunshot wounds.
Lt. Ray Brady, a spokesman for the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office, encouraged Dinguss to speak with investigators.
“We are still very early in the investigation and are willing to listen to any and all witnesses in this case,” he said in an email.
A spokesman for the Marshals declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation.
Laughlin called for the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office to reassign their investigation, alleging the agency has a conflict of interest since it procured the search warrants against Reinoehl.
“A completely independent agency with no involvement in the events must conduct the investigation,” Laughlin said. “However, the level of involvement of TCSO in the criminal investigation of Reinoehl is questionable."
Brady countered that the investigators are “a completely independent team from this incident and no members of this team were involved,” adding that the office has completed a state-required conflict of interest survey.